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Are Your Grain Bins Safe?

Poor ground and electrical short could energize big bin.

Tom Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

October 3, 2011

2 Min Read

Kyle Finley captivated audiences at the Farm Progress Show recently with his Live Line Demonstrations sponsored by Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. Finley owns a company, Live Line Demo, Inc., that specializes in presenting programs and training sessions to help people remember that they don't need to fear electricity, but should have a healthy respect for it.

One obvious problem this time of year comes when moving augers on wheels from one bin to another on the farmstead, or from farm to farm. Sometimes from the tractor cab it's difficult to judge whether an auger will clear a power line or not. Err on the side of caution, and check closely before pulling the auger under the line or getting it near to the line. Distances can be deceiving when you're trying to judge them from the ground.

The problem with contacting an auger with a power line occurs when the person driving the tractor pulling the auger steps off the tractor and makes contact with the ground. Then the electricity flowing through the auger from the line it's in contact with suddenly has a shorter path of least resistance to the ground- the person. Unfortunately, many incidents of that kind are fatal.

The not as obvious danger is that with older bin systems, especially, it's possible that the electric components driving motors and the like may not be grounded properly, or may wind up not grounded properly over time. Finley says that if you're relying on a simple little rod running into the ground as protection, you're probably far too trusting.

He urges people to inspect the wiring of motors and other devices around bins, or have it inspected by an electrician, to make sure that after years of wear, everything is properly grounded. Without proper grounding, if a short or other situation causes current to reach the metal bin, the entire bin can become energized. Once energized, anyone who comes in contact with it is at risk of electrocution, all because the bin was not grounded properly to get any current that tried to flow through the bin into the ground instead.

He's aware of situations where metal buildings have also become energized because an electrical wire fell upon a metal roof. If the entire building is energized, anyone who attempts to work on the building may be in danger.

The bottom line is caution, he says. If your bin system hasn't been inspected recently, think about an inspection for the wiring.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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